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Transforming Course Design -- Calculus in the new Millennium

In Fall 2008 the Mathematics Department offered two sections of transformed calculus. The transformed in class times are: TuTh 935-1050 (MATH 226.06) and TuTu 1235-1350 (MATH 226.08). In Spring 2009, the Mathematics Department offers three transformed sections. The class has an online video lecture / quiz component due before class meetings.

Academic Technology at SFSU made this video in which we invite interested mathematics teaching faculty to contact us. The clip is streamed from youtube

Pedagogy of supervising work in groups:
Eric Hsu (erichsu @  math.sfsu.edu)

Technology -- video - online social aspects of learning
Arek Goetz (goetz @ sfsu.edu)
Technology -- automatic homework grading
David Meredith (meredith @ sfsu.edu)


Transforming Course Design -- Calculus in the new Millennium is a seed project awarded in May 2007 by the CSU Vice Chancellor's office to Arek Goetz (goetz at sfsu dot edu) and Eric Hsu (erichsu at math dot sfsu dot edu) in the Department of Mathematics at San Francisco State University.


In a typical year at SF State, only 50% of the 800 students who enroll in Calculus I will earn a grade of C or better and thereby qualify to continue into Calculus II. According to reports shared in Fall 2005 by CSU Math Chairs, success rates are about as low at many other CSU campuses. Calculus is a gatekeeper to entry into most science majors, so improving the success rate in calculus could well allow more students to succeed in the sciences.  Two primary reasons for failure stand out: poor preparation and lack of student engagement. Many students lack prerequisite skills in algebra, trigonometry and logical reasoning, and the same students find it difficult to learn calculus in the present lecture format. This is not to blame the students, many of whom spend hours each week struggling to read their book and do their homework. They just lack the strategies to learn calculus without additional support.

This project is designed to provide calculus students with additional support in a cost-effective manner through the utilization of on-line, interactive curricular materials and classroom instruction based on the principles of active and collaborative learning. The key concept is interactive, because interactivity is the component that is missing from current calculus instruction.  The course redesign will include the following features:

  • Calculus concepts and methods will be introduced through a weekly two hour on-line calculus lesson interspersed with interactive activities. The activities must be successfully completed to continue the lesson, and the system has the capability of tracking student participation.
  • Concepts and methods will be reinforced in classes meeting three hours each week under the guidance of an instructor trained in collaborative group, active learning methods and following a carefully prepared syllabus. 
  • In addition to the automatically graded homework, students will be asked to write full solutions to a few selected problems. They will state in complete sentences what the problem asks, how they found their answer, and what their answer means. These papers are usually little more than one page long, but that is more formal writing than most calculus courses require. We believe that even occasional writing shows students the thought processes they should employ when solving problems and prepares them for more advanced work in mathematics. These solutions will be graded by the classroom instructors.